Three months ago I joined a club that no one ever wants to be invited to: The Preemie Mom Club. In the beginning, I thought my girls were just like any other baby, just smaller. It wasn’t until the days in the NICU passed by that I realized that wasn’t the case. They weren’t just babies, they were preemies. Each preemie is different but there are three pretty common factors that I’m sure all preemie moms would want everyone to know.
1. They aren’t comparable.
It may seem obvious to say but you can’t compare one baby to another. We constantly try to do this as moms. It’s a horrid habit that we all need to break but comparing two full term babies is a completely different concept. Try comparing a 25-weeker to a 32-weeker to a 35-weeker that were all originally due the same day. Even with the same adjusted age, these three babies will be nothing alike for many, many months, possibly even years. As a preemie mom, we’re trained to know that our children will not develop on track with their peers. Their adjusted age will help guide us, but still these babies are doing their own things on their own schedule. I once heard that one day in the womb equals two days in the NICU. The earlier the baby is born, the longer it will take for the baby to catch up.
2. Lying becomes natural.
My 3-month-old twins weigh less than 7 lbs each. They are still wearing newborn size clothes and diapers. The first time a stranger asked me about the girls I told the truth. The conversation went something like this:
Stranger: Oh, how adorable, how old are they?
Me: 3 months old.
Stranger: Awww… they are so tiiiny, though … (Long pause.)
Me: (Feeling as if I have no choice but to explain) Yes, they were born 8 weeks early.
Stranger: Oh no! Was it your blood pressure? Did your water break? …
And for the next 15 minutes I’m trapped in a corner telling said stranger my entire birth story. It was at that point that I decided I would no longer answer honestly. It’s a stranger. They have the best intentions I’m sure, but it saves me time and energy to simply reply with a fib.
Along those same lines, when asked “How are the girls doing?” you will likely receive a generic, “Good” as an answer. If I don’t reply in this way, the answer would just send everyone into a frenzy. Family and friends worry. As preemie moms, we expect to pretty much always have something wrong but we stay positive and we remain thankful that the things that are wrong aren’t worse.
3. No matter how many children you’ve already raised, this is different.
Raising a premature baby is just like raising a full term baby at some point. This point happens differently for each mom and baby. Until that point though, no amount of experience will help you. I’ve babysat my entire life, including helping raise my younger brother. When I finally became a mom, it was like second nature. Then I became a preemie mom and everything I knew meant absolutely nothing. They bottle differently. They sleep differently. They swaddle differently. Even things like how to touch them and what they need protection from is different. I went from being a laid-back, but well-involved, mom to a complete obsessive-compulsive-anxiety-ridden mom. Preemie babies cause that.
More than anything though, as preemie moms, we are blessed with miracles. Everything about the early moments of our children’s lives is scary and stressful and we constantly feel alone in our suffering but we hold on. We find support from other preemie moms in our “club.” And in spite of our unplanned birth experiences, we simply hold on to our miracles, because they trump all the comparisons, lying, and differences.
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